I’ve come to despise Veteran’s Day and I hoped to let it pass without remark, but I spent the afternoon with one of the Butcher’s friends, listening to German rap music and looking at pictures of Hawaii, and carefully avoiding all talk of the war. Who can stand to think of the vibrant, funny guy sitting in your living room shipped off to Iraq or Afghanistan?
You push it out of your mind. You try not to say the things you want to say for fear of making the good-byes sound like you think they’re going to be permanent, and so he leaves and you just say, “See you round.”
My nephew’s uncle is back in the Army. He served in Iraq and was discharged and came home and was so fucked up that his family wasn’t certain he wasn’t going to kill his wife or himself or both. He moved to North Carolina and then to Mississippi in an effort to get the mental health care he needed. Finally, they told him it would be easier for him if he just reenlisted.
And so he has.
They promised him that he would never have to go back to Iraq.
And so far, that’s been true.
And the other truth is that he does seem to be getting the help he needs.
Still, he should not have felt like he had to reenlist to get it.
I think that Veteran’s Day is a hard enough holiday in the best of times. All other things aside, how do you say ‘thank you’ to the folks who are willing to make that sacrifice of their time and their well-being?
But, how now, when our system for taking care of veterans is so fucked up, when one out of four folks come back from the war on terror with post traumatic stress syndrome to find a grossly inadequate system in place to help them deal with that… how now, when we don’t take adequate care of our veterans, can we look them in the face and say ‘thank you’ like it has any meaning?
If we meant it, we would show it–not at parades or photo ops–but where it counts, in the lives of these men and women.